Inside story of how a Sharks T-shirt ended up in 'The Mighty Ducks'

Disney/Twitter screenshot (@SanJoseSharks)

Inside story of how a Sharks T-shirt ended up in 'The Mighty Ducks'

The San Jose Sharks cameoed in the film responsible for one of their biggest rivals.

That film was “The Mighty Ducks,” Disney’s 1992 underdog story about a ragtag group of Minnesota youth hockey players who -- spoiler alert -- overcome the odds to win a championship. It led to the creation of two franchises, serving as the first in a trilogy of hockey films for the studio, and the namesake for Disney’s NHL team, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

The (no-longer Disney-owned and no-longer Mighty) Ducks have played 140 games against the Sharks between the regular season and the playoffs, and there is no love lost between the two California clubs. The film predates their ill will by a year, and 15 minutes into it, jokester Lester Averman (played by Matt Doherty) wears a Sharks T-shirt.

The scene introduced Averman and his teammates to the film’s main character, Gordon Bombay. Played by Emilio Estevez, the hot-shot lawyer begrudgingly agrees to coach the Ducks as community service following a DUI arrest.

This early in the film, the Ducks aren’t convincing hockey players, but they are convincing hockey fans. One character wears a Philadelphia Flyers coat and shirt, and another’s jacket bears pins from the University of Minnesota.

Steven Brill, the film’s writer and a lifelong hockey fan, originally envisioned all the kids wearing local teams’ gear. But he and the production team made an exception.

“My initial thing was, ‘Everyone should have [Minnesota] North Stars jerseys,’ ” Brill recently told NBC Sports California in a phone interview. “And then I think we wanted to mix it up, and use something cool, which was the new Sharks [logo] which had just come out.”

The Sharks still were in the middle of their inaugural season when “The Mighty Ducks” entered production in early 1992. San Jose’s logo -- a black shark biting through a hockey stick -- was distinct, as was the teal color scheme. That combination hit a commercial sweet spot.

In their first season, the Sharks sold $150 million worth of merchandise, The New York Times reported in 1992. That accounted for more than a quarter (27 percent) of the league’s sales, and only Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls ($300 million) sold more among American professional sports teams that year.

Sales didn’t just happen stateside, either. What does Prince William (yes, that Prince William) have in common with future San Jose stars Brent Burns and Logan Couture? All three wore Sharks gear in photographs from their childhoods.

“You play for the Sharks, that’s a logo every kid loves,” Burns told local reporters in January. “I think if you look back at most NHL players when they’re kids, they have a Sharks jersey at some point. It’s just a great logo.”

Brill thought so, too. The NHL had approved the use of other team logos in the film, such as the Calgary Flames, but Averman instead wore the shirt of the trendy expansion team.

According to Brill, it was “super important to reflect the reality of the NHL at that time,” and authenticity was paramount to the filmmakers. That commitment drove decisions at every level of production. When designing the Ducks’ sweaters, for example, production designer Randy Ser turned to youth hockey leagues for real-world inspiration.

“I think that was our major goal was to tell the story of these kids,” Ser said, “but to tell the story very truthfully, and in a way that could relate to people who held this sport and grew up with this sport. … It was a big driving factor for all of us to make sure we got it right.”

[RELATED: Why Sharks can defeat rival Golden Knights in first round]

Audiences thought they did. Although critical reception was mixed, the film received an "A" audience grade from CinemaScore and grossed over $50 million domestically. Disney had a hit, and the timing was fortuitous for then-CEO Michael Eisner.

A hockey fan himself, Eisner had been thinking about bringing an NHL team to Anaheim -- the home of Disneyland -- before the film was greenlit. On Dec. 10, 1992, just over two months after the release of “The Mighty Ducks,” the NHL awarded Disney an expansion team.

Three months later, Eisner announced the name.

Eisner did so wearing the movie’s green Mighty Ducks jersey, the sight of which Ser thought was “just unfathomable.” Hala Bahmet, a set costume designer on the film, said she remembers hearing “chatter” during production that a Disney-owned NHL team “could be a possibility in the future.”

Seeing that come to fruition, in large part because of the film’s surprise success, was another thing entirely.

“I had no idea that it was going to be kind of this phenomenon that it turned into being,” she said. “Just like ‘The Sandlot’ [which Bahmet also worked on]. These '90s sports movies are still really meaningful, and really powerful for people now. Whether they saw them as kids, or whatever it is, it just has this staying power.”

The nostalgia surrounding the film makes that much clear. In February, the Ducks hosted Brill and cast members from all three “Mighty Ducks” films at events to celebrate the team’s 25th anniversary, including a screening of the movie that started it all.

Brill is working on a follow-up. He told NBC Sports California that the script for a “Mighty Ducks” television pilot is “almost done, and we’re gonna decide with Disney if we’re going to make a whole series for the streaming platform [Disney Plus].”

Whether or not the Sharks again have a background role remains to be seen, but Brill said he “always liked” the team and the logo. The production received additional Sharks memorabilia from the NHL after filming the scene with Averman, and Brill remembers keeping a hat from the set that longtime Sharks forward Owen Nolan eventually signed.

“I don’t know where it is, but I do have a storage place with a lot of this stuff,” Brill said when asked what he took from the set. “I bet I have some cool old Sharks stuff from that haul.”

Sharks' struggles feel familiar on second rough East Coast road trip


Sharks' struggles feel familiar on second rough East Coast road trip

At the start of the Sharks' recent road trip earlier this week, the team felt like they were in pretty good shape. Despite losing to the Hurricanes in a shootout Thursday evening, San Jose played so well that they appeared primed to pick up a few wins.

But after being outscored 12-2 in back-to-back games against the Lightning on Saturday (7-1) and then the Panthers on Sunday (5-1), the Sharks aren't looking like the team that went 11-4-0 in the month of November. In fact, they're looking like the team that went 1-3-1 the last time they went on a long roadie out East.

Are the Sharks' struggles on this second long road trip just a coincidence, or is it history repeating itself?

"I think every trip is different, you're at different points," coach Peter DeBoer said to the media after the Sharks' loss to the Panthers. "My disappointment tonight was a little like last night. I think they scored on their first shot or their first couple of shots and then you're chasing the game right off of the bat. It's tough on the road to do that."

San Jose looked for a moment like they could trade in their bad luck during Sunday's game when Kevin Labanc scored a power-play goal in the first period to cut Florida's two-goal lead in half. But thanks to a lopsided special teams battle and Sergei Bobrovsky outplaying Martin Jones, the Sharks were handed yet another loss.

"I thought we hung in there and kept fighting, but it wasn't enough," DeBoer said. "Their goalie was better. Their special teams were better tonight than ours."

It's a disappointing trend to see from a Sharks team that was starting to turn things around after a solid November. Even after a disappointing loss to the Washington Capitals before the road trip, San Jose was able to put on quite the performance in Carolina -- despite only getting one point -- and had momentum in their favor. In both losses that ensued, that fight was hard to come by.

"I think we're a little too relaxed right now," Sharks winger Evander Kane admitted. "A couple of games where we got off to bad starts and weren't able to fight back. We didn't have much fight after we got down. That's probably the most disappointing part."

[RELATED: Simek to miss two weeks for minor knee procedure]

The Sharks might be leaving the Sunshine State behind, but their road trip isn't over just yet. They have one more stop before they can return home -- a Tuesday night meeting against the Predators in Nashville -- and one more chance to turn their luck on the road around. Even though the Predators haven't been playing well either, their home barn poses challenges for visiting teams. Given how the Sharks have played over the last couple of road games, a win won't be easy.

The Sharks have no choice but to buckle down and grind for a win.

"It sucks, but you just have to keep working to get out of this slump," Kevin Labanc said. "And make sure that we're getting out of this hole for ourselves."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in lackluster 5-1 loss vs. Panthers


Sharks takeaways: What we learned in lackluster 5-1 loss vs. Panthers


The Sharks needed a big turnaround on Sunday afternoon after suffering a 7-1 loss at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning the night before, but they didn't come close.

San Jose played better on the back end of a back-to-back, but the Florida Panthers had all the answers. In the end, the Sharks dropped their fourth game in a row, this time by a score of 5-1. 

Here are three takeaways from Sunday's game:

A goalie made the difference -- again

While Martin Jones didn't get pulled from Sunday's game like he was in Team Teal's loss to the Lighting, he still provided a mixed performance. He made a few saves to take some momentum away from the Panthers' offense, but he also gave up an early power-play goal and let two shots from the blue line find the back of the net. While he didn't receive much support from the defense early on, he still needed to buckle down more later in the game when San Jose was battling to put more points on the board.

The Sharks' offense did try to make up for the damage on the scoreboard and got some really good offensive-zone time as the game went on. Unfortunately for San Jose, Sergei Bobrovsky was in fine form and had an answer for most of the best chances.

Can't blame Kane 

The NHL says they're taking hits to the head more seriously. So it's a mystery as to why Mackenzie Weeger's hit on Evander Kane at the start of the second period didn't at least draw a penalty. Although Kane only left the ice for a quick moment and then returned to the bench, you can't blame him for standing up to Weeger on his next shift to defend himself. With Kane leaving the ice afterward with 17 minutes worth of penalties, Florida created momentum from a power-play opportunity, as the Panthers scored their third goal at even strength almost immediately afterward.

Credit should go to the Sharks for not letting the incident ruin their flow. Even though the altercation led to Kane being penalized for the rest of the period, San Jose continued to build momentum in an effort to even up the score. It's just unfortunate the Sharks couldn't get at least one goal to show for that effort.

[RELATED: Sharks' Simek to miss two weeks for minor knee procedure]

Special teams still struggling 

Yes, San Jose scored a power-play goal in the first period, the team's first in more than 20 attempts on the man advantage over a nine-game span. However, the Sharks were unable to capitalize at the beginning of the third period when they got some extended power-play time and could have trimmed the deficit to one. 

San Jose's No. 1-ranked penalty kill struggled as well, surrendering two goals to the Panthers. Whatever is ailing the Sharks' special teams, they'll have to fix if they want to get back into the win column.